Categorized | Mike's Column

Sale of Fifth Wheel just evolution

It really should not come as a shock to anyone that Fifth Wheel Truck Stop has been sold and is expected to be developed as residential.

An expansive piece of lakefront real estate in a stretch that is red hot and knee deep in all kinds of high-density residential development right now?

It was more a matter of when as opposed to if.

As Mayor Bob Bentley noted, rumours have been around years about the site being sold. It is the law of supply and demand. The site would eventually be part of the supply for residential growth –that was ensured by the implementation of Greenbelt legislation.

Grimsby has X amount of land available in its residential inventory. Yes, there will be a release of some (it certainly is anticipated if not expected) land in the west end, west of Hunter Road, but that area too will be exhausted soon.

The few parcels of land left will skyrocket in value and maximum densities will be the only way for developers to not just get their money back, but make a buck.

At some point, the demand and price point someone is willing to pay matches up with the supply and, poof, we have a sale. It would seem such is the case here.

Fifth Wheel has been part of the community for nearly 20 years and the Warren family, which operates the facility, as well as its local managers have been excellent community partners over the years.

This is big business and big money and sometimes those interests do not match up with smalltown interests.

Back in the mid-90s when I came to town, my good friends were hanging out in the basement of the Fifth Wheel…more precisely, management allowed them to use part of the lower level as their clubhouse for many years.

It was there where I attended some of their Tuesday night meetings and finalized some of the plans for the very first Greater Grimsby Open, which has evolved into the highly successful Kinsmen Mini-Putt.

Those kinds of contributions, the allowance of space and resources, is part of what makes communities work and, in the instance of Fifth Wheel, is something that will be missed.

I am quite sure the Losani group will do a fine job and build and excellent residential complex. They have an excellent reputation.

But as these smaller entities disappear from our landscape the burden of supporting on the ongoing infrastructure of our community falls on our local small businesses.

Niagara West has some excellent corporate partners. They see a problem or an issue and they will move mountains, almost literally, to make things better.

The more removed ownership is, the less connected they are to the town and that is where donations and contributions come from.

I hear from business operators all the time how much they are peppered with requests for a little donation here, or a gift certificate there. I kind of chuckle because virtually everyone these people see some and see me just before or just after so I can give them something free to tell people for what they are raising money.

And nobody really minds, they wish they could support everyone, too. The demise of Fifth Wheel just makes the pie cut that little bit thinner.

It’s progress I suppose, but it is the same progress the paved Vanderburgh’s orchard, made rows of townhomes of Valk Greenhouses and stuff I-don’t-know-how-many-units on that little lot at the corner of Kerman and Livingston. You have to see that to believe it. There used to be about, what, a dozen apple trees on that lot, now there are 10 units? 12?

Somebody will buy them or they would not be built. It is that simple.

That is what will happen at Fifth Wheel’s long-time home. It will get developed, just like Place Polonaise and the surrounding lots. And if you talk to any of the developers out there, those properties are hotter than firecrackers.

Our new world order, I supposed.

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